Vietnam Airlines is bringing wifi back to its A350s. But probably not the high-speed performance passengers are hoping for. At least not yet.
The carrier has four of its fourteen A350s equipped with a SwiftBroadband-powered solution fronted by SITAONAIR‘s services. These planes were active in 2016 and then the service was turned off. In the intervening years the carrier has taken delivery of more planes, some of them with radomes on top.
And so, when a Vietnamese news outlet reported last month that the carrier would be activating wifi in early October the assumption was made that it would be an upgraded product. Surely the carrier wouldn’t be going through all the effort just to turn on the older, slower system again, right?
PaxEx.Aero can confirm based on flying the equipped aircraft that the initial four planes – VN-A886, 887, 888, 889 – are back online already with the L-Band service. Not the high speed GX offering.
The service does offer a free “messaging” plan for 30 minutes that does not appear to be limiting which services are available. The part where the carrier suggests that any of the plans can support streaming is laughable given the underlying connection. And doubly so given the price charged and the incredibly low data cap on the package.
For the rest of the fleet that is expected to come online later it is reasonably safe to assume that Vietnam Airlines will switch to the GX Aviation solution, also via SITAONAIR as an integrator. Honeywell issued a release in late 2017 indicating that the carrier is a customer for its JetWave hardware, the only kit available for commercial aircraft connecting to the GX satellites today, lending further credibility to that theory. This also suggests that Vietnam Airlines has been flying the hardware around on its planes for years without ever making the connection available to passengers. Or maybe it has been sitting in a warehouse and the radomes were flying empty?
Based on the behavior of other carriers we assume that the pricing plans will change when the carrier activates the GX version of its connectivity, whenever that comes to pass.
Everything else, including the potential GX activation, remains on an unclear timeline.
And so, for now, the wifi on board is just the older L-Band offering. And the announced October 10th date for activation was perhaps good for advertising, but the service is already live and has been for at least a week.